The Basic Tools Needed for Metal Smithing

To work with metal you will need a few basic tools. These will be discussed in this blog. Throughout my blogs I will provide links as to where one can purchases these tools and some short videos I found useful when I started my journey into metal smithing.

 If you are just getting started with metal smithing it is probably best to start an inexpensive malleable nonferrous metal such as copper. Once you have mastered some basic techniques then delve into silver  or gold. There are many sources where copper sheet can be purchase a few are listed below:

Another option for those just starting and on a limited budget is buying short lengths of copper pipe from your local hardware store and  cutting and flattening that. It is a bit labor intensive but very economical! M copper pipe is about 22 gauge in thickness, which is a fairly versatile gauge for many jewelry projects. If you decide to go with this method I recommend purchasing an inexpensive pipe cutter usually sold near the pipe in the hardware store. It will make cutting short lengths of pipe much easier.

Basic metal smithing starts with making some basic shapes from a nonferrous metal such as copper and then forming these shapes and /or adding texture.  To do this several tools are needed:

Metal Shears - There are numerous resources for these. I personally have found Chen's Original Kitchen Shears work very well on any nonferrous metal that is 20 gauge or thinner ( My next blog will be all about metal gauges and which gauges work best for various projects). I buy shears from Amazon but I am sure they are available elsewhere. Jewelry supply stores such as Rio Grande and Fire Mountain also sell shears for cutting metal


Brass Mallets- when forging (pounding on) nonferrous metal brass works well because it is also fairly soft and will leave less marks. I have 2 of these. A 2 pound for doing larger work and straightening and 1 pound  brass mallet that also has a ball peen head on one side. These  are very useful for both hardening, forming, and stamping nonferrous metal.

Rawhide Mallet- Rawhide mallets are much softer than steel or brass hammers and therefore will not mar or mark the surface of your metal. Ideal for flattening out sheet or wire as well as shaping rings and bangles on a mandrel, the rawhide head is extremely durable. Start with a 2 pound mallet and expand your collection over time. These can be purchased from numerous internet sites including Amazon and Rio Grande Jewelry Supplies, and Fire Mountain are several sources but they are available through many jewelry and leather craft supply outlets.


Ball peen Hammer- This versatile hammer is frequently used in metal work. It has two heads, one flat and the other, called the peen, rounded. It is multifunctional in metal work and can be used to work harden metal and also texture metal. It can also be used for making cold connections such as rivets. These come in various sizes and can be made of steel or brass. If possible get one in steel and brass. These can be purchased from jewelry supply stores, hardware stores, and online shopping sites such as Amazon or Walmart:
Anvils- Since you will be working your nonferrous metal with different hammers you will need a hard flat surface to work on. So you will need some kind of anvil. Anvils are usually made from work hardened steel or cast iron.  They can be purchased from multiple sources such as hardware and jewelry supply stores as well as online marketplaces. If you are using a flat bench block for your work it is wise to buy a sandbag or rubber pad to muffle the sound and decrease the impact to your work surface.
Jewelers Saws, Saw Blades, Saw Lube and Bench Pins.  Another tool essential for the jeweler's saw. These can be purchased from multiple sources and at various price ranges. The saws usaully do not come with blades so these will need to be purchased as well a pin vise which one uses to hold your metal in place as you saw. Sawing takes a bit of practice but this skill adds so much versatility to the work you can do.
Jeweler's Saw here are some links to different saws:
Saw Blades- Jeweler's saws require special blades, they come is a large range of sizes and you will find what works best for you with time and experience. To start try a size 2/0, it is fairly versatile. Below is a good article / forum about choosing saw blades and a few resource sites as to where to purchase these.
Saw Lube- Since sawing creates friction which then creates heat, using a lubricant when you saw make sawing a much easier task, it also adds life to you saw blades. There are multiple products out there from multiple sources. Some use a lube made specifically manufactured for sawing, other options include products such as bees wax.
Bench Pins- A bench pin is a small wood block attached to a jeweler’s work table. With a jeweler’s bench pin, you can anchor tools to saw,  file, polish and set gemstones into jewelry. They  are available in several different designs, models, and prices.
Files, Sand Paper, Steel Wool and Other Abrasives. These are necessary to smooth and round the edges of your work. These can be bought almost anywhere online or your local hardware store.
Propane or Butane Torch- To work metal it will have to be annealed/ softened often to keep it malleable. These can be bought at any hardware store or online stores. This is done using heat from a torch. I will discuss Annealing and torches in a future blog.
This list may seem somewhat overwhelming, especially for a novice or if you are working with a limited budget. If money is not an issue start with good tools. If you are on a budget many of these tools are available a Harbor Freight. The prices are reasonable for fairly decent tools for beginners. There are many others tools one can buy to increase ones versatility when working with metal. These will be discussed in length in future blogs as well as the best places and resources for working with these tools.